Last night had a lot going on, including a rash of early injuries to Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, which sort of made it seem like the sky was falling for a minute. In the end, there big games and waiver wire pickups a plenty, so let’s crack open this Big Wednesday and see where it all heads.
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I mentioned yesterday that the return of Rajon Rondo could be a sneaky buy low moment for Jeff Green, who has struggled all season long. As it turned out Green wouldn’t need Rondo around to at least temporarily slam the door shut on any buy low talk, scoring a season-high 39 points on 14-of-26 shooting (8-of-16 from deep) with nine rebounds, three steals and one block in last night’s overtime win against the Wizards.
The 16 3-point attempts doubled his previous season high and this is no doubt a fluky line helped along by absences for Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless, with a big assist by the Wizards who simply didn’t show up. While it’s the game that could theoretically get him going, I just don’t like what I see in terms of his stat set, which includes deficiencies up and down the stat sheet. I liked the idea of buying low on his current late-round value, but paying mid-round prices for Green is steep when a successful scenario has him landing in the top-75 range.
Green wasn’t the only fluky performer yesterday, as Gerald Wallace posted nine points on 2-of-4 shooting (5-of-6 FTs) with six rebounds, nine assists, four steals and one block, and Phil Pressey scored 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting with four assists, five turnovers, two steals and one block in 35 minutes before fouling out. Chris Johnson also joined the party with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting, one trey, two boards and four assists in his 30 minutes off the bench.
Rondo’s return will blunt the production of Pressey in the next contest, and with his past history he’s simply not worth a pickup. Wallace was the backup point guard last night and it looks like he’ll be carrying the load at shooting guard for about two weeks, and on a per-game basis that’s probably a mid-to-late round proposition if successful. However, the Celtics play three games per week in five of their next six weeks, with the other week being a two-gamer. Ouch. That’s something to think about for the whole bunch, and it makes the risky Wallace a low-end, short-term pickup at best. If I can’t wrap my mind around picking up Crash, it stands to reason that Johnson is a deep league guy at best, too.
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The Wizards don’t have a lot to crow about losing to a Celtics team playing guys on 10-day contracts, and John Wall might have been trying to make a statement about being left off the Team USA preliminary squad, a decision that was sort of ridiculous. Kenneth Faried can’t even stay on the court for his own team and somehow Wall wasn’t good enough to get an initial invite. Umkay. The former top overall pick uncorked 29 shots in the overtime loss, hitting nine of them and 10-of-13 shots from the foul line to finish with 28 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals to go with six turnovers. Wall took responsibility for the loss after the game and it all sort of makes sense.
Bradley Beal was held strictly to his 30-minute limit and didn’t play in overtime as a result, finishing with 14 points on 7-of-16 shooting with three rebounds, four assists and a block. Owners may not like the limit but it’s best in the long run. Marcin Gortat appears to be getting over whatever his blues are this time, and posted another double-double with 11 and 13 with three steals and a block.
Trevor Ariza also got back on track for fantasy purposes with 14 points, four treys, three steals and a block, and so did Nene with 17 points, nine rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 34 minutes. Martell Webster has also picked things up a tiny bit recently and hit 3-of-9 shots (3-of-8 3PTs) for 10 points and two boards in 33 minutes last night. With 2.8 triples per game in his last four contests he has returned a late-round value, but he’s working hard from beyond the arc to do that. He’s only worth a look in deep leagues until he can make life easier on himself with better versatility.
The Mavs barfed up a 21-point lead from the first quarter to lose last night’s game against the Raptors, as the team’s offense stalled without Dirk Nowitzki (rest) in the fourth quarter. Monta Ellis had four of the Mavs’ nine turnovers in that final frame and eight on the night, but still managed 21 points with six assists and two threes as the team’s only real offensive threat. Jose Calderon returned to his original home and put up a solid 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting with four rebounds, five assists and two 3-pointers in the loss.
Shawn Marion continued to struggle with just six points on 3-of-11 shooting, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in his 31 minutes, but this marks the first real stretch this past week in which he hasn’t played at a 12-team level. Expand his sample size to two weeks or more and he should be in most lineups, so be ready to grab the top 65-85 nightly value if an impatient owner cuts him loose.
I’m officially out on the Mavs’ three-way center rotation in 12-14 team leagues unless I’m desperate for a big man. DeJuan Blair (eight points, seven rebounds, 18 minutes), Brandan Wright (13 points, three rebounds, one steal, 25 minutes) and Samuel Dalembert (four points, seven boards, one steal, 17 minutes) have practically no separation from one another in terms of who to carry and why, but their value in standard formats is ranked in the order they’re listed here. Woof.
The Raptors must have kept Kyle Lowry’s illness under wraps last night because I didn’t see anything on it until this morning, which helps explain the 0-for-10 shooting night that ended with just three points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals. He was apparently barfing during the game and the team clearly looked elsewhere for their offense to be initiated.
Now that would have explained the explosion out of Greivis Vasquez for 17 points on 5-of-13 shooting with seven assists and three steals in 34 minutes off the bench, except for the fact that he has now done this three straight nights, averaging 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 2.3 triples in that span. Even more impressive is that he averaged just 22 minutes in the games before last night, as he is getting time at both guard positions.
Last night Terrence Ross played just 19 minutes and in the two games prior to that he started at 33.5 minutes and fell to 21 minutes in the rubber match. John Salmons was a DNP for the first game and played between 17-21 minutes in the last two games while dealing with some minor back issues. Dwane Casey has been more comfortable lately with sliding DeMar DeRozan over to the three slot, and it’s an interesting situation because I’ve always felt Vasquez would be an interesting shooting guard in the NBA (aside from the fact he can’t really shoot). He’s way too slow to defend point guards and at age 27 that problem is only getting worse, but conversely he has the length to bother shooting guards and quickness won’t be as much of an issue. Offensively, a team embracing the concept would be running a double point guard offense with plenty of ball movement and hopefully an uptempo approach to leverage the additional ballhandler.
The high density of statistical output in limited minutes suggests the latter is already happening and if we add a fourth game to this last week’s value measurement he’s coming in with a solid mid-round return in 24.3 minutes per contest. When we expand the sample to include the rest of his time with Toronto he has been a deep league guy at best. A projection on Vasquez is going to be iffy at best with just three good games under his belt and plenty of bad ones before that, but unlike many tough calls we can look toward the shooting guard minutes as a potential game-changer here. The numbers from the four-game sample are probably a bit heavy in terms of raw production but they include low-end shooting numbers and in other words the valuation isn’t fatally flawed.
So owners can expect something close to this valuation if Vasquez's production is indeed tied to new time at shooting guard and, of course, Casey continues to do this. With Lowry a trade candidate and Vasquez a viable short-term solution as a starter, it makes perfect sense for them to expand Vasquez’s role in the meantime. I’d consider him a mid-level pickup in standard leagues and by value he should be a high-level pickup, but question marks have to temper expectations at least a little bit.
If owners weren’t obsessing over what to do about Vasquez, the 40-point career-best night for DeRozan would have been the first thing mentioned about the Raps. He hit 15-of-22 shots (1-of-1 3PTs, 9-of-14 FTs) with three rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block on the same night he was left off the Team USA invitee list. By posting 0.9 triples, 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks while hitting 42.8 percent of his shots, he has made the move from low-end play to top 60-75 value.
Jonas Valanciunas went for 12 and 10 with no steals or blocks but by now you know the drill. Even with his non-existent stretch over the past two weeks and overall frustrating year, he’s still a 12-14 team value on the season that is still not allowed by Casey to play through his mistakes. When that changes he’ll have mid-round upside and if those types of guys are hard to come by in your league then you’ll have your answer as to whether or not to hold him.
Amir Johnson went for nine and six with a three and a steal in 31 minutes tonight and he’s slowly turning it around, with just 14-team value over the past week and a 2-3 week blackout period before that in which he was a fantasy goose egg. I think you have to see the season-long top 85-100 value through this down period, even with Patrick Patterson nipping on his heels a tiny bit. Patterson slowed down with six points and five boards in 19 minutes, and he’s worth a look starting in 14-team leagues.
CHRIS PAUL, YOU’RE NEEDED ON CLEANUP IN AISLE 1
Chris Paul (shoulder) is talking like he’ll play in the All Star game and that would probably mean he’d be cleared before then, and the Clippers could really use him with Darren Collison (12 points, five assists, two threes, one steal) laboring through a toe injury that may cause him to miss time. J.J. Redick (15 points, one three, one assist, one steal) and Jamal Crawford (20 points, four assists, 8-of-21 FGs, two threes) would end up manning the point guard position, with a small assist from Darius Morris, but the former two guys would pick up most of the production and enhance their must-own status.
Blake Griffin scored 27 points with seven rebounds, six assists and a steal in last night’s loss to the Bobcats, and DeAndre Jordan added four points, 20 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. Matt Barnes showed he isn’t ready for fantasy leagues with four points and one rebound in 18 minutes, and Hedo Turkoglu played 12 uneventful minutes with one rebound and two assists.
The Bobcats got a nice win against a Clipper team that isn’t as good as the name entails right now, but when you’ve been a doormat for years it’s fair to get a little excited about the outcome. Ramon Sessions went for 10 and eight in 36 minutes and deserves to be owned in standard formats with Kemba Walker out, and Gerald Henderson’s (13 points, seven boards, three assists, one steal) life will be a little bit easier because of said absence.
The big news was Al Jefferson’s 24 and 10 on 12-of-23 shooting with one steal and one block. The recent surge has pushed him to a top 24-48 (9/8 cat) value not counting the games he missed with the ankle injury. I’m not worried about my No. 56/35 preseason prediction (9/8 cat), and separately it’s good to see Big Al looking healthier than he did last year, at least for now. Josh McRoberts scored 13 points with eight rebounds, five assists, one steal and two threes, and now that he’s hot it’s time to pick him up in standard leagues and hopefully he’ll still have some juice for when you get him into lineups.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored eight points on 3-of-7 shooting with two rebounds, two steals and two blocks in his 25 minutes. He’s still nowhere near a standard league value since returning from a six-week absence due to a hand injury, but the defensive stats should serve as a reminder to watch him with the Bobcats’ small forward position woefully thin.
DO IT ALL PAUL
The Hawks aren’t really a mystery right now as guys’ roles and production levels are mostly staked out. Kyle Korver hits a three every night and last night he posted 12 points, five rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block. Jeff Teague is playing the part of disappointing early round draft pick that hasn’t capitalized on a wide open chance, though last night he at least got the shooting part of the equation down with 7-of-14 makes, 23 points, two threes, five boards, three steals and true to form he couldn’t get the whole thing right with just two assists. Maybe he’s going to get things turned around, but it sure looks like he’s struggling with all the defensive attention he’s getting and Dominique Wilkins isn’t walking through that door.
Pero Antic continued to be worth owning with 10 points on 2-of-9 shooting (including a three) with 12 boards, a steal and 5-of-6 freebies, while DeMarre Carroll left last night’s game due to a hammy injury after scoring 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting with three triples, eight rebounds and a steal in 24 minutes. Carroll’s value had solidified to make him top 80-100 value (9/8 cat) on the season and owners should wait and see where this heads before considering a drop.
If he can’t go, a paper-thin team only gets thinner and Mike Scott (10 points, four rebounds, one block, 18 minutes), Shelvin Mack (10 points, three assists, one steal, 20 minutes) and Lou Williams (two points, 1-of-4 FGs, six assists, 22 minutes) will all be forced to play about 25 minutes per piece and one of them will crack standard league value. If I had to bet on them I’d bet in the order listed, and that’s a serious departure for me on past writings about Sweet Lou. I don’t know if it’s his knee or what the problem is, but he’s simply not making progress on a nightly basis and there’s not enough meat to this bone right now for 12-14 team owners.
Paul Millsap scored 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting with one three, six boards, five assists, three steals and five blocks as he has finally caught up with my preseason prediction at a tidy top-16 value on the year. Enjoy the ride.
The Magic continued to struggle relative to their normal productivity levels, though Victor Oladipo did get loose for 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting with two treys, seven boards, seven assists, two steals, one block and a 6-of-7 mark from the line to boot. That might be the last buy low window we see for the rest of the year. Jameer Nelson scored his customary 17 points with seven assists, and Glen Davis continued to play his way off fantasy rosters with nine points, two rebounds, three assists and a steal in 31 minutes. Until there is any substantial news on Nikola Vucevic (concussion) I’d give him another game or two before giving up if I’m short on bigs.
I know we said the opposite of this in the blurbs, but Arron Afflalo had his second straight very slow game with six points, three assists and not much else and his foot issue from the prior week is on my radar. I don’t think there is a speculative pickup here, but Moe Harkless (12 points, three boards, one three, 22 minutes) is probably the first place to look if anything were to come back bad with Alf.
Tobias Harris isn’t addressing the main problem with his fantasy value, which has been a lack of threes, steals and blocks, and last night he goose egged that department again – but he went for 19 and 12 with 5-of-5 makes at the charity stripe and that’s good enough to keep him on rosters. I’ll be looking for schematic issues that explain the lack of peripheral stats, but the ankle is the best theory I have at this point.
It was the Luol Deng reunion game as the Bulls traveled to Cleveland and kicked the Cavs while they were down, which just happens to be on any day that ends with the letter ‘Y.’ The Cavs are patsies on defense and therefore you’ll see some big lines in the Chicago box, with D.J. Augustin’s 27 points on 8-of-14 shooting, five threes, five boards and seven assists leading the way. I’ve been pretty adamant about holding or adding him so I hope some of you guys were able to get in on this. Kirk Hinrich may return periodically throughout the year, but he’ll never truly knock Augustin off and as long as the University of Texas point guard can stay healthy he looks like a solid mid-round value at worst. Over the last month he has posted top-40 value and the only thing that looks truly out of place is his 45.5 percent shooting over that span for the career 40 percent shooter.
Taj Gibson started for injury prone Carlos Boozer (calf), a sentence that owners may want to get used to down the stretch, even if this particular injury doesn’t sound like it’s overly serious. With another year at $17 million, it’s hard to see the Bulls pushing him in a meaningless season. Joakim Noah on the other hand is the type of durability risk that needs to be protected from himself, and last night both he and Gibson went off in the cush matchup.
Gibson put up 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting with five rebounds, one steal and three blocks, and Noah had nine points, 18 rebounds, six assists, one steal and two blocks. I’ve had Gibson as a must-own player in 12-team standard leagues all season and this type of opportunity is exactly why. Mike Dunleavy bounced back from some quiet outings to post 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting with four triples, two boards, four assists and one steal in his 39 minutes, and with plenty of playing time coming his way and top-100 value over the last two weeks he should be owned in almost all standard formats.
The Cavs are such a mess and there don’t appear to be any great answers. Mike Brown isn’t doing anything terrible on most nights, but his team doesn’t play hard and it’s hard to know where he stands on that. Kyrie Irving (26 points, five treys, 10-of-19 FGs, six rebounds, five assists, one steal) is a big part of the issue and his minutes are untouchable, so he doesn’t have buy-in from his star.
Dion Waiters (15 points, 6-of-13 FGs, one three, three assists, 28 minutes) is on his own program and doesn’t seem to like Irving and buddy Tristan Thompson. Jarrett Jack (two points, three rebounds, five assists) either fell off a cliff or he isn’t interested in gutting anything out for this particular squad. Either way, it’s hard to remember that a year ago he was carrying the Warriors at times and he’s a 16-18 team guy in fantasy leagues this season.
Thompson fell off after a series of respectable outings, scoring six points on 3-of-14 shooting with seven rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 37 minutes. The good news is that the shot attempts and minutes were there, and over the last two weeks with Andrew Bynum gone he has been a low-end, late-round value. He’s a 50-75% chance to hold onto that value in this situation, and owners just have to know that he needs big popcorn numbers to offset the bad percentages and lack of peripheral stats.
Luol Deng hit just 2-of-11 shots for 11 points, five boards and one steal to go with a 7-of-9 mark from the line. It would seem like Deng could lose motivation playing in Cleveland and he was emotional last night, but all reports point to a guy that appears to be having a good time in his new digs. Anderson Varejao has been a must-start player lately cruising along with top-20 value over the past two weeks, and he made another tasty meatball with 10 points, 11 boards, five assists and two steals in the loss.
Philly caught a break getting a Knicks team on the rocks and nabbed themselves a road win in New York. Spencer Hawes (four points, 1-of-3 FGs, one three, seven assists, one steal) got shut down by Tyson Chandler by most accounts, but was seen icing his right (shooting) pinkie after the game and it’s obviously something we’ll be keeping our ear to the ground on. The rest of the squad did well, led by Evan Turner’s career-night including 34 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and perfect marks on three 3-point attempts and five foul shots. And yes, you’re right, zero steals or blocks.
Thaddeus Young has taken quite a while to live up to some of my lofty preseason hype, and last night he was back on that trail with 19 points on 8-of-21 shooting, one trey, seven boards, four assists, four steals and one block. He’s a top 30-40 value on the season when he has been on the floor but he has to get the crooked 36.9 percent shooting fixed from his last four games if he wants to truly cash in on some of these big lines.
The same thing applies to Michael Carter-Williams, who has hit just 34.8 percent of his high-volume 17.3 FGAs per game over the last four contests and 40 percent with similar volume on the year. MCW went gadzooks with 19 points, two threes, 12 boards, seven assists and two steals, but hit just 5-of-18 shots from the field and 7-of-10 from the line. The rookie has slowly slid to a top 25-60 per-game value on the year, and he’ll need to go big like this on a nightly basis if he wants to keep from falling further. That or hit better than 40 percent of his shots.
James Anderson basically squandered his opportunity early on this season to be relevant in standard leagues, but after a wobbly two weeks he actually has some borderline value in 12-team, 9-cat leagues in that span. Anderson had a good night last night with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, one trey, seven boards and three assists, and over that two-week sample he is hitting an unsustainable 56.9 percent of his shots. The real issue for him will be whether or not he can keep this type of role when Tony Wroten (ankle) returns, and with shooting that’s bound to decline it’s a dual problem of declining value due to minute loss and then further penalties from coach if he's not hitting at this absurd clip. Still, anybody excelling in Philly’s jackpot system is worth a look when they’re hot – I’d just keep Anderson on the radar as a low-end speculative add better suited for 14-16 team leagues.
TODAY IN KNICKS HILARITY
While the Sixers have managed to exceed any and all expectations this season, they’re still a deeply flawed basketball team and I’m surprised the Knicks’ home loss to them hasn’t created more of a circus and reports about Mike Woodson’s job. It’s one thing for guys like Carmelo Anthony and Beno Udrih to make whatever comments that insinuate that Woodson’s schemes and coaching are an issue, but when former NBA champ and DPOY Tyson Chandler calls you out about over-reliance on switching that’s officially an issue.
The problem is that lazy defenders don’t want to fight over the pick, leaving a bunch of guys that are already defensive liabilities in bad matchups after the switch. Passing a speedy point guard off to Andrea Bargnani or Carmelo Anthony without a fight is Keith Smart-level stuff, and the sum of all the bad decisions the Knicks have made this year makes me wonder how bad things are on the coaching front. I know the roster is deeply flawed and that is a James Dolan issue, but it's possible that both things can be true and it just feels like Woody is getting a pass. At least for now.
So that’s just the tip of the iceberg of crap going on in New York, and friend of the program Tommy Beer wrote a good article on why the Knicks would be wise to trade Melo, which is a story for another time and place but I agree with my fellow cool last name brother. The takeaway is that nothing is certain in New York and nothing should be comfortable for owners.
Chandler (10 & 14 with three blocks) will give the type of effort he gave last night on many nights, but his durability will be a question mark and though he’ll play through injury there won’t be any reason to overly push things. Iman Shumpert knocked in 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting with three treys, 6-of-8 free throws, eight boards and two assists, and while he has flashed this type of line every once in a while he might have zero points with four rebounds and a steal the next time out. On the issue of switching, Shump has been a culprit, but that’s beside the point – he and Woodson have clashed all year. I’m not dropping anybody with value for him in 12-14 team leagues right now, but it’s worth pointing out that a tanking scenario with a different coach could be a real good look after the trade deadline.
Andrea Bargnani scored 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting with four rebounds, five turnovers, four blocks and one failed ‘I believe I can fly’ moment, and with just low-end, late-round value for standard leagues on the season it’s understandable if you’re not riding this ride. In a 12-team standard league the risk doesn’t justify the reward unless you get lucky and catch him while he’s hot, but in a 14-team league owners can take a longer view and get some serviceable value by simply riding the waves. The minutes will be there in the long run with the Knicks so banged up, assuming the lightly reported injury to his arm from last night doesn’t carry any real weight.
Raymond Felton put up nine points, seven assists, one steal, one block and one three, and he is the same type of high-minute, low-value player as Bargnani, with just 12th round value in 8-cat leagues on the season. In 9-cat leagues he’s returning just 16th round value on the year, and the only good news for is value is that at 39 percent shooting he’s probably got nowhere to go but up. He claimed to have back spasms after the game but that sounded more like an excuse to not talk with the media.
J.R. Smith did J.R. Smith things with 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting, three treys, three boards, three assists, one steal and two blocks in 34 minutes off the bench, which would normally be a signal to pick him up, but until he puts some serious distance between himself, the random DNPs and issues of all types – he isn’t a must-own player just yet in 12-team leagues. It is worth noting, however, that he has basically put up borderline 12-team value in the past two weeks even while all of this has been going down. Theoretically he should improve if all the in-between the ears stuff eases up, which is the furthest thing from guaranteed.
ALL THE KINGS’ MEN
As you’ll see in the San Antonio recap, I basically got into my car as the games were starting to get underway and got hit with all sorts of injury news, including the Achilles’ injury to Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins’ ankle injury. Gay left in the first quarter and Cousins left in the second quarter and neither of them returned, and if there is any silver lining it’s that neither injury is attracting a serious vibe from those around the team. If you’re looking to speculate on Derrick Williams (22 & 11 in 40 minutes), I’d put a short-term grade on his viability as a pickup. We’ll get clarity on the injury situation today and if I hear anything then I’ll definitely let y’all know.
Going down the road of any serious time off for either player, with Gay having better odds than DeMarcus to miss games, I’d also give the Jimmah a look (again, assuming we get bad news that doesn’t seem likely). Jimmer hit 4-of-6 3-point attempts for 14 points, two boards and one assist in 18 minutes. His elite-level foul shooting and 3-point production can make him climb ranks pretty quickly, and the team would absolutely love to stick him on the court in a scenario in which they’re forced to. He and Marcus Thornton (four points, 22 minutes) need to create trade value and Jimmer hasn’t had the chance to because his defense makes him a choice that Mike Malone can’t make on most nights.
Ben McLemore (11 points, 35 minutes, 3-of-10 3PTs) will also be worth a look, but since he needs time to develop I’d probably gamble on Jimmer before him in this theoretic scenario in which Gay misses time. If Cousins misses time it will solidify the recent late-round value of Jason Thompson (12 points, eight boards, one steal, 22 minutes). Carl Landry (six points, 2-of-8 FGs, six boards) is slowly getting back into the swing of things and he still can’t really jump all that well, and I’d give him about two weeks before we can start to assess him normally within the rotation.
The Rockets had last night’s game against the Kings circled after losing to them twice to start the year, and in particular Dwight Howard (26 & 13, 10-of-13 FGs, 6-of-17 FTs, one steal, four blocks) had been used by DeMarcus Cousins in both contests. Had the Kings not lost both Cousins and Rudy Gay an interesting All Star pitch out of Sacramento could have developed targeting the DMC vs. Howard matchup, but as it would go the Rockets and Howard rolled and probably erased any head-to-head advantage Cousins had in the All Star race.
Terrence Jones missed another game with his thigh injury, and conspiracy theorists will point out that the team may have simply wanted to showcase Donatas Motiejunas (six points, 2-of-6 FGs, nine boards, one block, six fouls, 29 minutes). Motie’s fantasy game has always had major deficiencies and with Jones back soon there’s no real reason to consider an add.
Patrick Beverley’s hand injury gave me a much-needed break from the frustration of owning him, and I actually thought it might have been the best thing that could’ve happened to him. His weak returns haven’t been because he doesn’t have the stat set to be a big-time performer, they’ve happened because he made a conscious decision to run away from the ball on offense. Having some time off to reflect on his current role, but more importantly how to expand it, it’s been interesting to see him put up 17 points and three assists in his first game back and then last night’s six points on 2-of-9 shooting with six rebounds, eight assists, two steals and one block in his second game back. The opposing Kings and Blazers teams have trouble with defense, but it’s invariably an intriguing return and Beverley should be owned in all formats for his top 90-115 value at bottom barrel usage
Omri Casspi was able to take advantage of absences to Jones and Francisco Garcia (knee) with 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting, two threes, 12 boards and a steal. He was also returning to play against the team that drafted him, so there were a few things working in his favor and owners should remain skeptical.
How Joe Dumars still has his job is pretty amazing to me. The Pistons lost to the Bucks last night and are 17-25 on the season after bringing in square pegs in Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith to fit their round holes. The good news is that Smith and Jennings are the only contracts on the books in 2015-16, and the bad news is that Smith won’t be worth the $14 million per year for 3.5 more seasons and Jennings isn’t taking the overdue step forward.
While Jennings busted out of a big-time slump with 30 points on 11-of-23 shooting, three treys, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block, Smoove had yet another disastrous shooting night with 2-of-10 makes from the field (4-of-8 FTs) for eight points, six boards, six assists and three steals. I could see buying low on Jennings, within reason, since his 37.4 percent field goal shooting on the year has a very strong chance of improving at least a little bit.
Greg Monroe snapped out of his own funk with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, nine rebounds and four assists, but nothing about his late-round value in standard leagues seems to be out of place. Though he will be up and down until further notice, his role is relatively locked in and that makes him worth dealing with compared to some other late-round values that are all over the place.
Zach Lowe made a great comment on Twitter this morning when he said there should be a separate Basketball Reference page for Rodney Stuckey when he is in a contract year. Stuckey looked great again with 23 points off the bench in his 33 minutes, hitting 8-of-16 shots (7-of-8 FTs) with two rebounds and one assist. He’s been relatively consistent this season with his late round value, and that means he’s worth a look with the goal of having a more bankable asset at the end of one’s bench. If you’re looking for upside, look somewhere else.
I try not to transpose any of the Sacramento relocation experience onto the Bucks’ situation, but Larry Drew is doing his damndest to reprise the Keith Smart act with his 19th different starting lineup in 41 games this season. I can get behind some of the moves, such as starting Ersan Ilyasova at small forward to go up against Josh Smith, and playing Caron Butler big minutes with O.J. Mayo either ill or getting a high fructose corn enema. I can’t get behind anything else. Nor can I explain anything else. Drew successfully fouled up by three points late before a 3-pointer could be lifted by the Pistons, which makes him appear progressive until you realize he holds guys out for entire first halves when they get two fouls in the first quarter.
Like Smart, Drew thinks he can outsmart the game and find the perfect matchup for each situation, discounting the value that continuity and clear roles can have for a team. For owners, it may be helpful to think of him as a more approachable Scott Skiles.
Butler had family and friends in town for the game and grew up in nearby Racine, and after griping about playing time last week he put up 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting (2-of-10 3PTs) with seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block in 32 minutes off the bench. Unless the two truly have an arrangement worked out on playing time, which sounds unlikely, look for Drew to reward Butler with another solid set of playing time in the next 1-2 games and from there he needs to be outstanding to hold his job.
The Bucks want Giannis Antetokounmpo (four points, 1-of-3 FGs, five rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block, 26 minutes) and Khris Middleton (10 points, 3-of-6 FGs, two threes, two boards, four assists, four steals, two blocks, 30 minutes) to play but unfortunately they’re both getting jerked around by Drew, so they’re still better stashes than they are week-to-week assets. I’ve added Giannis this week in one standard 12-teamer and held Middleton in some deeper 12-teamers and they’ll have a decent amount of rope this week.
Ilyasova’s start at small forward returned 12 points on 6-of-13 shooting with six rebounds and a steal, and while it’s one of his more normal looking lines it’s fair to disregard this one knowing that he’s unlikely to start at small forward a whole lot this year. He’s on the right side of standard 12-team ownership values for the first time all season with late-round returns in the last two weeks, which have included his trademark inconsistency. I’ll probably hold on any Ilyasova positions for the next two weeks and if he doesn’t get it together I’ll start to cut him loose.
Larry Sanders missed last night’s game with the flu and got admonished by beat writer Gery Woelfel for doing so, and that’s your daily ‘why the eff did I draft Larry Sanders update.’ Kidding aside, you’ve come too far to let something like that be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. John Henson started with 12 points, three rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes, Ekpe Udoh went for four and four in his start at center, and Miroslav Radulijica played the entire fourth quarter and finished with eight and eight to go with two steals in 20 minutes.
LEAN ON ME
The Thunder got a mixed performance out of Kevin Durant (36 points, seven boards, five assists, one steal, one block) that was roundly panned as yet his most recent amazing performance, but I have a feeling nobody in OKC will be thrilled about his 11 turnovers and he did most of his damage after Kawhi Leonard (finger) left the game. Still, a win against the Spurs is a win against the Spurs, and the best news for Thunder fans is that Reggie Jackson went off with 27 points on 12-of-17 shooting, three treys, two boards, eight assists and two steals in 38 minutes. The leash is getting loosened, albeit with no real guarantee that Brooks doesn’t tighten it back up on any given night.
Jackson also pitched a perfect game on the turnover front, which is sort of funny knowing that the Thunder desperately need somebody to get Durant the ball in the flow of a discernible offense. Even on a big night for Jackson, the team is still complicit with using Durant as a one-man show, no matter how little it does for them to train on such a strategy since he’ll be doubled mercilessly in the playoffs. Scott Brooks has two guys in Jackson and Jeremy Lamb (nine points, six assists, 24 minutes) that will need to be maxed out in terms of both minutes and performance for the Thunder to compete against the Pacers or Heat.
A balanced attack with Russell Westbrook, Jackson, Lamb, Durant and Serge Ibaka (14 points, nine boards, two steals, five blocks) would be able to defend everything except big lineups, and if guys like Thabo Sefolosha and Steven Adams are used correctly defensive issues can be addressed. It’s really the Thunder’s only chance, and they’ll need to outright bench Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher, and none of this will ever happen.
YEAR OF THE HAND
It’s been a rough season for Kawhi Leonard enthusiasts such as this guy right here, and you know things are bad when you hop in your car and the Spurs radio guys say ‘if you just tuned in, the news isn’t great for the Spurs.' You say to yourself 'not Kawhi' only to get the payoff, "Kawhi Leonard could be out a while with a broken fourth metatarsal on his right (shooting) hand." I'm superstitious enough to believe that you can't think of the potentially injured player's name during this period of uncertainty, yet I always do. And yeah, that's dumb as all hell but so is adding up a bunch of basketball stats every day like a bunch of addicts.
Now there have been muffled reports of hope that he won’t need surgery, but surgery or not it seems highly likely that we’re measuring with weeks and not days.
This stretches the Spurs extremely thin on the wing with Danny Green early in his month-long recovery from his own broken hand. Tiago Splitter’s (shoulder) absence will also come into play here, and the two won’t likely return before the All Star game according to Pop’s pregame interview yesterday.
Boris Diaw (14 points, 5-of-8 FGs, two threes, three boards, three assists, one steal, 32 minutes) is the biggest winner here, though the standard Gregg Popovich disclaimer applies and overall I think there’s enough to hold onto to make the add in standard leagues in which you need a big man. Marco Belinelli (13 points, 6-of-10 FGs, one three, two boards, three assists, four steals, 37 minutes) was already slated to start and be worth owning while Green was out, and this news only strengthens his position on that front.
Look for the Spurs’ Big Three to pick up the slack as they did in last night’s loss to the Thunder. Tony Parker scored 37 points on 14-of-22 shooting with two rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block, Tim Duncan went for 14 and 13 with two steals and a block, and Manu Ginobili put up 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting with two treys, four rebounds, three assists and a steal.
CHICKENS AND EGGS
Like all title contenders, the Pacers are going to see the A game from opposing teams on most nights and that was the case last night in Phoenix as they got run. The box score will show that George Hill scored 16 points and folks might think it was a pretty good night, but he’s starting to garner a lot of attention for being the weak link of this squad. He had one good quarter scoring the ball last night but everything else was pretty awful, including his once-solid defense. Hill hit 4-of-4 shots (including a three) and 7-of-8 free throws to get his 16 points, chipping in with four rebounds, two steals and just one assist, and the highly leveraged scoring line illustrates one potential issue for Hill and that’s his lack of touches.
Starting about a month ago we saw signs that Hill was losing his confidence, and his role has clearly taken a bit of a backseat to Paul George and Lance Stephenson, who both bring the ball up and initiate most of the Pacers’ offense. Hill’s confidence hit a low when he airballed a free throw about 3-4 weeks ago and all-but stopped shooting for the next few games.
The sixth year combo guard out of IUPUI has never been a guy with high usage, ranking No. 228 in 2012-13 in usage rate (18.8), but this year he has plummeted all the way down to No. 300 (15.7). This looks like a classic chicken and egg situation on defense in which the player not getting touches isn’t engaged on the other end. I also wonder if a similar cycle is at play where he’s not feeling the ball in his hands, he’s missing shots and then taking fewer shots because he’s not hitting.
His fantasy value will be of the late-round variety at best unless he reboots his approach to the game, and it’s Frank Vogel’s job to call his number and keep him engaged at least a little bit. After Hill didn’t pick up an obvious transition situation leading to a Gerald Green dunk the body language toward Hill by Roy Hibbert and vice-versa showed a strained situation. No talking, no dap, no acknowledgement of yet another Ole’ on defense. Beat writers are starting to question Hill. Something is up there and the Pacers have three months to figure it out, and if they do then Hill will be more of a mid-to-late round guy than a guy hanging desperately to late round value in standard formats.
George scored 26 points with seven boards, one steal and one three, Lance Stephenson was slowed to the tune of six points, five boards, four assists and a steal, Roy Hibbert was outplayed by Miles Plumlee and finished with six and four with two blocks, and David West put up 13 points with five boards, three assists and a steal in the loss. West is also dealing with a right (shooting) hand injury that beat writers seem to be uneasy about, but he’s a gamer and as of right now this is only something for owners to watch.
GREENERY PART DEUX
The Suns are getting the most out of their guys and they also have some under-the-radar guys doing big things, leading to the confusion one might feel when trying to figure out how they keep winning. Gerald Green isn’t the most consequential of those under-the-radar guys, but he was the most visible of them as he poured in 23 points against his old Pacer teammates. Hitting 6-of-13 shots (3-of-5 3PTs, 8-of-10 FTs) with six rebounds and a steal in just 30 minutes, we saw good Green last night and he’ll continue to oscillate good and bad outings but be worth starting in most standard formats. He has top-80 value over the last month in 8-cat leagues and in 9-cat formats he climbs all the way up to top-40 status with just 0.9 giveaways in that span.
Most importantly for this team, their players are very complementary and in the case of P.J. Tucker (13 points, 5-of-6 FGs, one three, five boards) and Miles Plumlee (11 points, seven boards, one steal) they have two plus defenders with Tucker deserving awards consideration on that end. In fantasy leagues Tucker is a mid-to-late round play with the same advantage as Green in 9-cat formats, and the Plumdog Millionaire is a must-start guy these days.
Channing Frye (13 points, five boards) provides the air support, Markieff Morris (20 points, 8-of-14 FGs, two threes, three boards, two steals) and Marcus Morris (five points, three boards, two steals) are a pair of athletic utility knives, Leandro Barbosa is a legit scorer to make up for the loss of Eric Bledsoe, and Goran Dragic (21 points, three assists, 8-of-10 FGs) gives them an above-average starting point guard to orchestrate it all. Dragic dealt with a little foul trouble but also got some rest in his 22 minutes, as Jeff Hornacek knows he’s carrying a lot of the load. Frye is a must-own player and Markieff is worth owning in standards, while Marcus is more of a deep league play. Barbosa’s stock has fallen since a fast start, and he’s also only worth a look in deep leagues.